…If there is one thing developmental psychologists have learned over the years, it is that parents don’t have to be brilliant psychologists to succeed. They don’t have to be supremely gifted teachers…parents just have to be good enough. They have to provide their kids with stable and predictable rhythms. They need to be able to fall in tune with their kids’ needs, combining warmth and discipline. They need to establish the secure emotional bonds that kids can fall back upon in the face of stress. They need to be there to provide living examples of how to cope with the problems of the world so that their children can develop unconscious models in their heads.—David Brooks, The Social Animal
This morning, the snow is fine glitter resting in the crevices and dips of the frozen earth. Two mourning doves sit in the walnut tree, feathery puffs hunched in on themselves. The boys have a snow day—an extended holiday—so we make French toast for breakfast and listen to Drew Holcomb on Pandora. I dance in front of the stove as I hover over a sizzling skillet. “This is a good song to make French toast to,” I say, waving the spatula in the air like a conductor’s baton. “Whatever you think,” the 16 year-old says in bored tones, his mouth full of bacon.
Outside, the sky seems bluer—what for all the white—and inside my heart feels a fine dwelling place, a safe place for these two I love beyond measure.
A couple nights ago I awakened in a panic, a web of dreams closing in on me—fears of all we are doing wrong in the parenting of these two boys we’ve been entrusted with. I lay still in the dark, thoughts stabbing into my lungs, making it difficult to breathe. I prayed scripture aloud, grasped around for assurance in my mind, until my fists opened slowly under the blankets, and—palms up, I drifted back to sleep.
This morning, these two experiences rest in my heart in precarious balance. I am thinking about a book we read together at The High Calling a couple years ago, and a quote I pulled out for our discussion.
And as I ponder what Brooks means when he says that parents just have to be good enough, I arrive at that same place I did two years ago: Love. Scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins. Will it cover a multitude of mistakes I’ve made in this parenting thing?
Maybe most of the fruit of parenting is high up on the tree … it’s not until late in the season it will let loose and fall into our waiting hands. But, sometimes, I just want to climb up the trunk and shake those branches, don’t you? And maybe, providing kids with stable and predictable rhythms, maybe giving kids a living example … maybe that requires something more than just good enough. I chafe under those words, just good enough. Because … there is nothing easy about just good enough by these standards. It sounds like it happens by accident—just good enough. Maybe part of it does … But I call this thing grace, not an accident. And there is hard work, deliberately weighing this thing out, trying to plan for the best.But so many times in this parenting journey, there is the opening of the hand under the blankets of life, surrendering it all to God. Sometimes, you just have to make French toast.
There are no guarantees, this I know, but maybe … just maybe, that’s one reason why we need more than just ourselves.